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Behind the bars (or, what used to be bars)

A tour through the county jail provides perspective

County Commissioner Mary Stern enacts a chilling scene: being trapped in a cell with a sheriff and member of the press
County Commissioner Mary Stern enacts a chilling scene: being trapped in a cell with a sheriff and member of the press
Sheriff Jack Crabtree and County Commissioners Allen Springer and Mary Stern pose behind the only bars remaining in the jail. Crabtree kept them when the fail was remodeled as a reminder of what used to be.
Sheriff Jack Crabtree and County Commissioners Allen Springer and Mary Stern pose behind the only bars remaining in the jail. Crabtree kept them when the fail was remodeled as a reminder of what used to be.
Sheriff Jack Crabtree gives an annual tour of the county jail to the county commissioners.
Sheriff Jack Crabtree gives an annual tour of the county jail to the county commissioners.

(Nathalie Hardy/Reporter) Until I went to jail myself, I was one of those people who wondered why inmates were even allowed the luxury of television.

After having been inside, I know the words “luxury” and “jail” don’t exactly belong in the same sentence.

Granted my time in jail came in the form of a tour and interview rather than a several month stint for shoplifting, or allegedly murdering someone.

But still, it’s not like anyone was passing around a bowl of popcorn for movie night. It was more like a few men gathered around, standing or sitting on uncomfortable chairs or benches, craning their necks toward the screen mounted in the corner, displaying whatever channel the signal picked up.

Soon, the jail will have a new way to control tv content while giving inmates all kinds of information from housekeeping details to self-improvement programs, as reported today in the News-Register.

A shift in my perspective about television being more of a tool to modify behavior than a way to entertain inmates wasn’t the only misperception I corrected during my tour. The first thing that struck me was how squeaky clean it was. In my head, I expected dingy and dirty. Instead it was clean and sterile.

I expected to find staff to be, well, kind of gruff, to put it nicely. Instead, everyone I encountered was respectful and helpful. And, I don’t think that’s just because I was accompanied by Sheriff Jack Crabtree and Captain Ron Huber. Being a reporter, I eavesdropped on other conversations and was encouraged by the respectful communication.

Also, I expected a lot of noise, like clanging handcuffs, yelling and the like. In reality, beyond the hum of day-to-day operations, it was pretty quiet in there.

Most surprising to me was the fact that there wasn’t a bar in sight. Well, until Sheriff Crabtree showed me the ones he’d saved  from demolition when the building remodeled. He said he felt like it was a piece of history that deserved its place in the jail.

The days of crowded cells with inmates clanking handcuffs against metal bars are left for movies and imaginations, it seems. So, while there’s nothing luxurious about the county jail, what I found was a clean, safe environment for people to be held accountable for their actions.

I suppose the message is if you prefer a recliner and remote control to watch television, you best stay out of jail. 

Comments

Michael Tubbs Sr

"The days of crowded cells with inmates clanking handcuffs against metal bars...."

I believe that clanking sound you're referring to, Nathalie, was actually produced through the dragging of ones jail or prison issued tin cup, back and forth, across the bars. Just an educated guess mind you, not gleaned from any actual or personal experience.

As a kid, like some, I probably watched too many James Cagney movies.

As for actual experience, I give Sheriff Jack Crabtree's jail a '5 Star' rating for ambiance.

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